Written by Pipeline Worldwide Co-founder, Jamie Nollette
I’m a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, business developer, recruiter, and Christian. All these things matter, especially to those that know and love me (and of course, to my Heavenly Father), but the truth is I’m pretty ordinary. I’m like everyone else - trying to seek a better life for my family and finding my purpose in this world. Thankfully, I found Africa, and it changed me.I took my first trip to Kenya and Uganda in 2007. I taught in the inner city, so I thought I knew poverty and was prepared for what I’d see and experience. I was wrong. The immensity of the extreme poverty and suffering was overwhelming. For someone who likes to solve problems and fix things, it felt insurmountable. The most painful yet pivotal memory from that first trip was in Nairobi when we stopped in town to exchange money. I stood outside our bus when I was approached by a street kid. He looked about 8 years old (the same age as my son, Sam) and was so dirty and dressed in rags. He asked me, “Excuse me, Ma’am, but will you take me with you?” I tried to explain that we were on our way to Uganda and that I couldn’t take him, but he desperately pleaded, “I will lay on the floor under the seat and won’t say a word. Nobody will know I’m there.” I can still see the desperate look in his eyes and hear his voice. Not only did I see his face, but I also saw my own son in his image. What if I was born in a different part of the world and Sam ended up an orphan living on the streets? Would someone hear his plea? Would they rescue him? Upon returning to the states, it took some time processing my trip. What did all this mean? How can I do anything that would make a difference in a place with so much need?
I began by sponsoring some kids and volunteering. It wasn’t until 2010 when Pipeline Worldwide was formed and we hosted our first event. At the time, I didn’t have lofty goals, but knew I wanted to give others the opportunity to change their life like mine had been changed through the participation and meaningful experiences with people and needs in East Africa. Fast forward 13 years later, I’ve helped Pipeline fund hundreds of projects, developed strong partnerships, and have a library of heart wrenching and victorious stories. The work has been hard, at times really, really hard, and wasn’t done alone. In fact, hundreds of people have contributed their talents and resources to make this all possible. These experiences (the many successes and some failures too) and the people I’ve met along the way have taught me many lessons, like it does take a village to raise a child, small things are really big things, we are more alike than we are different, everyone has something to give, teaching a man to fish is the best model for sustainable change, grassroots development leads to understanding and trust, LISTEN and they will tell you what they need, and we are changing the world…one traveler, one street kid, one hospital, and one village at a time. I went to Africa with an open heart and an open mind, with a willingness to serve, but what it taught me is far more than what I could ever give. Even though I’m ordinary, I can be part of doing extraordinary things.